This chicken pasta dinner is ready in less than 30 minutes with the help of the air fryer and a no-cook sun-dried tomato sauce.
While I sometimes love to spend time making things from scratch, there are a handful of “convenience” foods that help me make the most of my time in the kitchen by delivering a lot of flavor without a lot of effort, like olives and sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil. I’m also a big fan of the air fryer, which often cuts the cooking time of ingredients in half.
This quick, simple meal comes together while the pasta is cooking, and the no-cook sauce delivers a deep, rich tomato flavor that tastes like it’s been cooking all day long. It’s a perfect dinner on the couch, bowl-to-mouth, pasta slurping kind of comfort food, but can also be served as an elegant, special occasion meal.
What Is Tapenade?
To make the sauce for this dish, we’re essentially making a sun-dried tomato tapenade. What’s that?
Tapenade is a Provencal spread, traditionally made from minced or pureed olives, capers, and anchovies. It’s often served as an appetizer with crusty bread or as a bruschetta topping, but it’s also just as delicious as a no-cook pasta sauce. You’ll see versions of this with spaghetti and a breadcrumb topping.
While I enjoy capers and anchovies on occasion, I wanted the tapenade for this recipe to be more tomato-forward, with hints of rosemary and garlic. Without the anchovies, it’s also easy to make a vegan or vegetarian version of this recipe! Try swapping the chicken for eggplant, chickpeas, or cannellini beans and keeping the Parmesan on the side.
What Kind Of Sun-Dried Tomatoes Should I Use?
Sun-dried tomatoes will come packed in oil or dried and packaged. They are typically found in either the produce section with the tomatoes, where the canned tomatoes and tomato paste are located, or with the prepared pasta sauces.
The big difference between the two is that the jarred tomatoes packed in oil will be soft, supple, and ready to eat, while the dried, packaged variety needs to be reconstituted in hot water.
For sake of time in this recipe jarred tomatoes in oil are best. If the dried/packaged variety is all you have, soak them in boiling water for about 10 minutes before using.
Multi-Tasking Your Chicken Pasta Dinner
In the time it takes for the pasta water to boil, the pasta to cook, and the no-cook sauce to be made, the chicken that’s being cooked in the air fryer will be ready, so everything can be tossed together, without any waiting or rest time.
Preheat the air fryer and then add the onion powder, salt, and chicken to a gallon zipper bag. Seal the bag and shake well to coat the chicken in the seasoning. Then add the chicken to the air fryer and set the timer for 18 minutes.
Don’t want to use the air fryer? Toss the chicken with the seasonings and bake at 400°F for 20 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer reads 160°F. Other options include using already cooked chicken, heated through, or you can make it vegetarian by using some drained and rinsed canned cannellini beans. Just add them to the pasta and water for the last 30 seconds of cooking to heat them through.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. You’ll want a hefty pasta, like a bucatini, spaghetti, or rigatoni. If you prefer a quick-cook pasta, like angel hair, wait 10 minutes after the chicken goes into the air fryer before starting the pasta to keep the recipe’s timing on track.
The simple sauce takes less than five minutes to make in a food processor or blender—the most difficult part is peeling a couple of cloves of garlic; I like to use a mini food processor for blending. Toss the garlic, olive oil sun-dried tomatoes, olives, salt, and a few tablespoons of fresh rosemary leaves into the food processor, and blend until almost smooth. Set this aside until the pasta is ready.
Transfer the chicken to a cutting board, then drain the pasta and add to a large bowl, one big enough to easily toss the pasta and chicken without it spilling over the sides of the bowl. Add the sauce to the pasta and toss to coat. Then cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to the bowl of pasta and sauce. Toss again to coat the chicken, and top with chopped fresh parsley and freshly grated Parmesan right before serving.Print
This quick and simple dinner is ready in less than 30 minutes with the help of the air fryer and a no-cook pasta sauce.
Check blog post above for alternate cooking instructions for the chicken, as well as vegetarian substitutes.
Garnish with fresh parsley and grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.
Listen to me explain briefly about how to make this pasta, with some great tips along the way, by clicking the play button below:
- Olive oil spray
- 1 and ½ tsp. salt, divided
- 2 tsp. onion powder
- 4 (6 oz.) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, lightly drained
- 1 (6 oz.) can pitted black olives, well drained
- ¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 Tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves
- 12 oz. box bucatini
- Preheat air fryer to 360°F.
- Lightly spray all sides of the chicken with olive oil spray.
- In a gallon zipper bag add 1 teaspoon of the salt and the onion powder; shake bag to mix. Add chicken, seal bag, and shake to coat.
- Transfer chicken to air fryer basket and insert into air fryer. Cook 18 minutes or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast registers 160°F*. Meanwhile, cook the pasta and make the sauce.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta; reduce to a simmer. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
- In a small food processor or blender add sun-dried tomatoes, olives, olive oil, garlic cloves, rosemary, and remaining salt. Blend until almost smooth; set aside.
- Transfer cooked chicken to a cutting board; let stand while preparing the pasta.
- Drain pasta, transfer to serving bowl. Toss with sauce until well coated.
- Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces, add to bowl with pasta. Toss to coat in sauce. Serve warm.
*Carry-over cooking will bring the temperature of the chicken to 165° F, which is the recommended safe temperature for cooked chicken.